Terror of the Autons part 2

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    Craig @craig

    The Master’s devious plan to kill the Doctor continues as he develops a new, deadly plastic. Jo, disappointed at her failure, follows the Doctor as he investigates at the circus, Robert Holmes’ replacement for the music hall in Talons.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Whenever I see the fate of McDermott, the Monty Python line “oh no! Not the comfy chair!!” leaps to mind. I suppose fan consciousness always locks the Autons as animated shop window mannequins, but I admire Holmes for trying different sort of approaches for plastic initiated death in this story. When you consider how prevalent plastic has become, you can’t help but feel there is a lot of unexplored potential for the Nestenes.

    The story is a bit of a slave to the production values off the time, but its worth dwelling on the impact of this story, as there was a bit of a media furore surrounding it. The Commissioner of the Met said the reveal of the policemen as Autons had “set back community policing by a decade”. The more cynical among us would suggest that, in the 70s, setting back community policing was entirely the remit of the Police force.

    It culminated in a very boring debate in the House of Lords on the effect of TV on the nation, with Doctor Who being mentioned a lot, and this serial (the Doll, and the Policeman) being cited as “too scary for children”. As they pontificated on the issues, I’m sure it never occurred to them that they were contributing to the best free advertising pitch in history. Viewing figures did very well.

    Anonymous @

    Again, for me, there’s an element of ‘noooo, that’s not how I imagined it’ to this episode but I do think that The Chair is still kinda creepy. And I love the mighty Harry Towb’s ‘it looks like a black puddin’ line.

    Interesting to see that race representations in Who have moved on not a jot from Tomb of the Cybermen in this episode with Big Tony making Toberman look positively enlightened.

    But a cracking cliffhanger. One of the all-time greats…

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – A quick check of Wikipedia reveals that Terror of the Autons was broadcast less than three and a half years since Tomb of the Cybermen, so nope, race relations haven’t moved on.  In fact, they may have gone backwards:  Roy Stewart was probably thinking that, at least, he had lines when he played Toberman.

    @phaseshift – I’d heard that there were complaints about the doll – since it appears to be the kind of thing that would give kids nightmares even without coming to life, I’m not quite sure why. The chair was a bit too obviously being manipulated by Harry Towb for me, but that was probably my ‘adult’ eye.

    And I’d agree that many police forces in the Seventies seemed to be trying to make the Autons look good.

    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift and @bluesqueakpip — I must admit that I’ve always half had in mind seeking out a black inflatable chair to put in my lounge to freak out Whovians when they come to visit…

    Must get around to that…

    Anonymous @

    Hi @bluesqueakpip – I’ve deleted the ‘span’ junk from your post.

    @jimthefish @phaseshift and Bluey – yeah, I too thought the actor in the Auton chair was a little too obviously pulling it around himself at one point.  But that doll … creepy creepy creepy.  And thanks Phase for the context you provided with the media furore and the HoL debate – don’t they have better things to be discussing in there?!

    And @craig – nice link to Talons with the circus replacement for the music hall.  With everyone’s comments whilst viewing these BG eps, I’m really starting to see themes developing from particular writers.

    I agree with you, Phase, that if the Nestenes’ schtick is inhabiting plastic, there’s so much more to explore beyond shop window dummies and inflatable chairs.  Think what a clever writer could do with the ubiquitous carrier bag …  🙂  … and there’s even a hook for the story in charging for bags nowadays which means fewer are used so the Nestenes would have to evolve/adapt in the storyline.

    Anonymous @

    @shazzbot et al — I always thought that the Nestenes were a curiously specific alien. Colonised a thousand worlds but only ones with a flourishing plastics industry…

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – available from Argos (other outlets are available), to freak out your friends and family everywhere.


    Anonymous @

    @bluesqueakpip – you beat me to it!  I knew there were black plastic chairs for @jimthefish to adorn his front room with.   (Just … don’t sit in them on a hot day wearing shorts.  I speak from experience  😀 )

    Jim et al, I missed a trick with my plastic carrier bag mooted storyline – surely ‘bag for life’ is ripe for comic detail in a new Nestene story?

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Agree with everyone re the potential for a modern take on the Nestene’s affilitaion for plastic in general.  Maybe not so much the chairs (you can see where the AG bin idea came from!)

    Ha! You lot can laugh but the autons terrified me at the time, and the “ANY plastic” line was as effective as the AG “ANY shadow” (SitL) line. it didn’t help that we also had one of those black plastic inflatable chairs – fortunately I wasn’t watching the episode from it (cue much role playing after of being suffocated by chair! (Not easy – they tend to keep spilling you off)).

    The doll was very creepy – this was pre-Chucky but very much part of a spooky voodoo-style tradition from Hammer films, Avengers etc. Funny, it never occurred to me at the time that the massive flaw in this plan is the driver turning down the heat, LOL (I was too busy hiding behind the plastic chair!)

    The plastic theme is part of a strong green-environmental trend in Pertwee’s episodes. For all his seeming to be part of the establishment he doesn’t miss an opportunity to have a “dig” at militarist solutions.

    And yes, much extra publicity from the HoL debate and the redoubtable Mary Whitehouse. They cottoned on eventually but it took a remarkably long time. Community policing? Don’t remember much of that that in the 70s 😈 Maybe if the police had looked and behaved less like plastic replicants they would have had less of a problem!

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